Strawberries, sweet and succulent in seductive scarlet red, are summer's most generous gift. Most of the time I need no more than a simple bowl of the beautiful red berries, enriched, of course, with softly whipped cream.
The quality of the strawberries is paramount; they have nothing to hide behind. Eaten outside, with the sun warming your face, strawberries are a pure expression of summer.
Of course, they needn't just be eaten on their own -- strawberries make a magnificent addition to all sorts of desserts. This strawberry and honey mascarpone tart is wonderfully rich, with the thick, creamy mascarpone offset by a little orange juice and zest, all complementing the sweetness of the strawberries. The tart's shell is completely cooked before adding the filling so, if you like, you can make the shell up to two days in advance; the filling takes only minutes to prepare.
The strawberry ice cream is also really quick to make. It uses a technique I love, as it doesn't require an ice-cream machine; instead, you fold the fruit puree into the meringue and cream, then you freeze it. The strawberry coulis is another great fast recipe; it's perfect for drizzling over ice cream, the tart or adding to summer cocktails.
Strawberry and honey mascarpone tart
You will need:
250g (9oz) plain flour, sifted
1 tablespoon icing sugar, sifted
Finely grated rind of 1 orange
125g (4?oz) chilled butter, cut into cubes
1 medium egg, beaten
150ml (5fl oz) cream
250g (9oz) mascarpone
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons orange juice or Cointreau
150g (5oz) strawberries, sliced
Use a 30cm (12in) tart tin with removable base -- or a 20cm (8in) tin and halve the quantities of the above ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4. Place the sifted plain flour, the sifted icing sugar, the finely grated orange rind and the cubes of chilled butter in a food processor and whizz briefly until the butter is in small lumps. Add half the beaten egg and continue to whizz for just another few seconds until the mixture looks as though it may come together when pressed -- prolonged processing will only toughen the pastry, so don't keep whizzing it until it's a ball of dough. You might need to add a little more egg, but not too much as the mixture should be just moist enough to come together.
If you're making the pastry by hand, rub the butter into the sifted flour, sifted icing sugar and the finely grated orange rind until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs then, using your hands, add just enough beaten egg to bring the mixture together.
With your hands, flatten out the ball of dough until it is about 2cm (?in) thick, then wrap it in cling film and leave it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and place it between two sheets of cling film that are larger in size than your tart tin -- see Rachel's Tip, opposite. Using a rolling pin, roll the pastry out to no thicker than 5mm (?in). If the tin is round, make sure to keep the pastry in a round shape and ensure it is large enough to line the base and the sides of the tin.
Remove the top layer of cling film and place your hand, palm facing up, under the cling film underneath. Flip the pastry over -- the cling-film side should now be facing up -- and put the pastry into the tart tin. Press it into the edges of the tin and, using your thumb, "cut" the pastry along the edge of the tin for a neat finish. Remove the cling film, prick over the base with a fork and chill the pastry in the fridge for another 30 minutes, or put it in the freezer for 10 minutes -- it can keep for weeks in the freezer.
Next, line the pastry with foil, greaseproof or parchment paper, whichever you have to hand, leaving plenty to come up the sides. Fill with baking beans or dried pulses -- all of which can be reused for this purpose again and again. Place in the oven and bake 'blind' for 20-25 minutes until the pastry feels dry. Remove from the oven, take out the baking beans and the lining, and brush the pastry base with the leftover beaten egg. Cook in the oven for another 5-8 minutes until the tart is lightly golden. When the tart has been completely baked blind, take the pastry out of the oven and set it aside.
Next, make the filling. In a bowl, whisk the cream with the mascarpone and two tablespoons of the honey until the mixture is the consistency of whipped cream. Fold in the orange juice or Cointreau, whichever you're using. Spread this mixture out in the cooled pastry case and arrange the strawberries on top. Brush with two tablespoons of warmed honey to glaze the top.
You will need:
250g (9oz) strawberries, hulled
1-2 tablespoons caster sugar
Juice of half a large lemon
Whizz the hulled strawberries, the caster sugar and the lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Taste and add more caster sugar or lemon juice if necessary, then push the coulis through a sieve. Pour into a serving jug or bowl and keep in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
Strawberry Ice cream
You will need:
250g (9oz) fresh or frozen strawberries
Juice of 1 lemon
250g (9oz) caster sugar
200ml (7fl oz) water
4 large egg whites or 100g (4oz) egg whites
A pinch of cream of tartar (Bextartar)
300ml (10?fl oz) cream, whipped -- this should come to about 500ml (17?fl oz) when whipped
Puree the fresh or frozen strawberries, whichever you are using, along with the lemon juice. You can use a liquidiser or food processor to do this, or you could mash the strawberries with a fork, but be careful not to leave the strawberries too rough as they can get a bit icy! Push the puree through a sieve to remove the seeds.
Heat the caster sugar and the water slowly in a saucepan, stirring all the time to dissolve the sugar. Boil fiercely for five minutes, until the mixture thickens and, when you dip a spoon into it, the last drops to drip off the spoon form a kind of thread.
Meanwhile, using an electric whisk, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they become stiff. Still whisking, gradually pour in the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream, and continue to whisk until the mixture is cool, glossy, and stiff: about 4-5 minutes. Fold in the strawberry puree and the whipped cream, though not completely -- I like to leave this slightly marbled. Freeze overnight. This ice cream can be scooped straight from the freezer.
1 egg white is 25ml (1fl oz), or 25g (1oz) on the scales, so if you forget how many you have in the fridge, just measure them -- 100ml (4fl oz) or 100g (4oz) for this recipe. Egg whites last for weeks in the fridge -- but don't cover them completely -- and they also freeze well in a bag or tub; thaw them out in the fridge overnight before use.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine